Delta Pisses Off Seattle Customers

FlyerTalk is abuzz with news that Delta has started attaching extra tags to ALL of its customers’ bags as they come off the baggage carousel in Seattle, according to user bjohnsonmn.

Delta bag tags

Thanks to SeaBridge for a look at the new bag tags on FlyerTalk

These tags remind customers that they could check their bags for free if they had the Delta Gold Rewards Amex. Unfortunately for Delta, they chose a pretty dumb place to implement it.

My impression is Seattle generally dislikes corporate advertising. The main reason we don’t have public toilets downtown — which other cities like San Francisco rolled out years ago — is that the city won’t permit any advertising on them to defray the costs.

Seattleites generally like to be left alone. We are friendly — but distant. Putting ads on people’s luggage seems like an invasion of personal space.

Alaska Airlines guarantees bags will come out in 20 minutes or less. With the extra time Delta requires to put the tags on bags, some people have reported bags arriving as much as 40 minutes after arrival at Sea-Tac.

Essentially, Delta has succeeded at pissing off potential customers by adding their own advertising to people’s personal property while simultaneously providing slower service than their main competitor.

Update: Just a day after sharing this news, Delta and Alaska have agreed to cut their reciprocal elite benefits for customers traveling on each other’s flights. Free checked bags are among the casualties. So if you don’t have a Delta credit card yet, hopefully this marketing strategy has made a compelling argument.

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  • inTransit

    I wonder if they realize that in many cases travelers on an airplane may not necessarily be American and therefore not eligible for the credit card at all. Sea-Tac in particular has a lot of Canadians coming down from Vancouver.

    • Scottrick

      I’m sure they considered it. I just find it a uniquely awful way to pitch the card given how much better Alaska is when it comes to baggage handling. (Alaska pitches their card, too, but in the air.)

  • Santastico

    Delta pissed off customers? What a surprise coming from Delta!!!!!! :) Delta is becoming the most customer unfriendly company in all segments not only in the airline industry.

  • yourPFpro

    Haha that’s pretty funny, I’m actually heading up to Seattle this weekend for ‘work’ for the first time. Company’s paying but I’m trying out JetBlue from Socal. Going to a Sounders game, but nothing else planned, any tips?

    • Scottrick

      If the weather’s good, head to the Arboretum and Ballard.

      • yourPFpro

        IF… haha ok, thanks bud. Staying dtown at Sheraton so life could be worse haha

        • Matt C.

          That’s a great spot, 6th and Pike. Walk straight down Pike to the market, plenty of restaurants to check out. Umi has great sushi (near 1st and Bell), and 1st and 2nd in that area have some good bars and nightlife.

          • 98101UA1K

            The Emerald City COMICON is this weekend at the Washington State Convention Center & the Sheraton and is completely sold out. My guess is your hotel and the general area around there including places to eat will be packed during the event so plan ahead. Should be fun crowd though.

    • mipo777

      You’ll love Jet Blue out of LGB, I have no doubt. You’ll likely end up at the fish market at some point, & if so I recommend anyhting from Piroshkey Piroshkey bakery. Smoked salmon one is the best!

  • dan luttrell

    Seems like a good idea on the surface. At least from a marketing standpoint but I can see why this is bad. First it takes time to attache the tags, so that’s a waste and I guess people in Seattle are odd in that they don’t understand how capitalize works. They are like the people who try to outlaw billboards. I think Delta should have just gone with some posters and maybe print this sort of thing on the regular barcode tags. Maybe Southwest could place some adds near the luggage area that says “You could of checked your bag free on SW” Just thinking. I should have been in marketing, doh !

    • Scottrick

      It could be as easy as including a flier with a person’s receipt after they pay a checked baggage fee.

      Capitalism is not the same as spamming your customers.

      • oldguy


    • PogueMaThoin

      Maybe the folks in Seattle understand just fine how “capitalize” works, and I’m not thinking it’s just press the Shift key. It’s called “pay for play” – you want to use my property as an advertising vehicle, you pay for the privilege like you pay for other media outlets your advertising is on. That’s how capitalism works. Delta only got it 1/2 right when they took the advertising money from AmEx but thought they could use their customers’ personal property as the media outlet for free.

      And no, it isn’t a good idea from a marketing standpoint. I’ve been in marketing for more than 25 years, and I never would have allowed this. First rule of marketing: know your audience. Addendum to the First Rule: and don’t piss ’em off.

  • Brian

    Meh, I don’t see what the fuss is about. If you don’t like the tag, just rip it off and toss it. The in flight sales pitches are what really annoy me – no way to avoid that.

    • Scottrick

      People seem to object for two reasons. (1) it’s their bag and they don’t want someone putting ads on it. Would Delta appreciate you putting your ads on their seats? (2) Adding the bags seems to be delaying luggage delivery upon arrival, worsening the quality of service. In-air advertisements don’t delay customers.

  • Graydon

    Wonder how many Delta card members got the tag? I know they need to hawk the card but come on Amex and Delta give it a break. I practically had to show my personal and business Delta credit cards to one of the pushers airside at one airpot to prove I could not even apply…

  • Amol

    Jeff Smisek is kicking himself that he didn’t think of this earlier!

    • Scottrick

      Does Delta also put credit card ads on first class tray tables? I think United may have them beat there.

      • flyer49er

        At least Delta and United never put religious cards on one’s tray table, very no class.

        • Scottrick

          True. Glad they stopped, but I also eat at In-N-Out Burger every chance I get.

        • Smile

          They haven’t had those cards for over 3 years ! It was also just a card saying to give thanks….. The card also was blank on the other side for those who believe in nothing . See, there was something for everyone – even You !!! Lol

  • dotti


  • Steven

    Provide some proof. Saying people are pissed is irresponsible unless you can provide some context.

    I’ll give you some…I’ve never experienced abnormal delays claiming luggage in SEA and I fly there often as I’m a Diamond. However twice in 15 months flying AS from GEG and claiming luggage for a stopover I did seek the 20 minute deal and AS couldn’t have made it more difficult.

    And since you’re clearly pissed about Delta placing an advertisement on your baggage, I’ll give you a few things Alaska does that directly effect the passenger more. One, they hawk their credit card every single flight. Not only is it a distraction and monotonous after several flights – it also takes away from the passenger being served especially in the forward cabin. Second AS won’t serve anything other than water pre-flight in first class, the only major airline that does this.

    So for a Delta flier used to a drink of choice before leaving and a flight free of intercom hawking of credit cards, I could say Alaska pisses me off. But it’s more like an annoyance and a difference in business practices.

    I highly doubt there is a revolt in Seattle about a bag tag. Come one. And if you’re personally pissed, fly Alaska.

    • Scottrick

      A number of people on the FT forum were upset. That’s all the title refers to. They’re in Seattle. They’re potential Delta customers. And they’re upset.

      Every company advertises. I think this was a poor way to do it given their competitor’s strength in this market for this particular service.

    • SuckItUpButtercup

      Oh you poor thing Steven, diminished service in first class… 1st World Problems. SMH

    • Josh

      Also, it’s not true that Alaska doesn’t serve drinks preflight in First. I fly Alaska first all the time, and am served drinks often. It all depends on your flight crew.

      As an aside, one area where Alaska shines over the competition is with their phone agents. I rarely have any issues when talking to them. They are smart, courteous, and go the extra mile for me all the time.

      Regarding the baggage issue, it IS possible that Delta isn’t completely stupid, and they tagged the bags on the way OUT. The delay receiving your bags could have just been coincidence.

  • JustSaying

    I’ll be flying Alaska

  • davisesq212

    Couldnt they just hand out a flyer when you check in or advertise it on the coffee cups on the plane?